Ghislaine Maxwell's guilty verdict could be overturned and her case retried after revelations by two jurors about personal experiences of sexual abuse in her childhood. Judge Alison Nathan opened an investigation at the request of prosecutors for possible prejudice and perjury.
by Maibort Petit
A week after Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of sex trafficking, two jurors in the case told the media they influenced the jury by sharing their own experiences of sexual abuse during deliberations.
The two jurors allegedly lied in the questionnaires by failing to disclose that they had been sexually abused. This aspect compromised their impartiality to act in the trial. The whole issue is under investigation and the court could declare a mistrial.
Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and longtime collaborator of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was convicted of five of the six charges against her on Dec. 29 after five days of deliberation.
A juror, Scotty David, told The Independent newspaper and Reuters that he used his personal experience of abuse to assuage doubts other jurors had about some of the accusers' testimonies. That fact can be qualified as misconduct.
A second juror told The New York Times they shared a personal experience of sexual abuse that "seemed to help shape the jury discussions." This confession greatly compromises the impartiality of the jury and would lead to a new trial.
Prosecutors filed a letter Wednesday requesting an investigation into the comments, according to court records. For their part, Ghislaine Maxwell's lawyers sent two letters to Judge Alison Nathan asking for a new trial. The magistrate opened an investigation.
Experts have pointed out that jurors' comments to the media were devastating to the prosecution and could likely mean the case would have to be tried again. For now, it's all in Judge Nathan's hands.
Criminal lawyer John M. Smith said the revelations made by the two jurors to the press compromise Maxwell's verdict and that there is a high likelihood that the court will have to make a new trial, since the conduct of two jurors gives the defense the right to overturn the verdict.
He contends that the revelations of the two jurors lead to misconduct. The first thing to note is that perjury was committed since both would have lied under oath, so the court can open an investigation and penalize for the crimes.
Likewise, the opinions of the two jurors compromise the obligation that the jury must be impartial, since justice requires it. Having preconceived opinions about the crime being tried, and having influenced the rest of the members of the panel leads to a serious fault that could lead to an annulment of the trial due to prejudice of the two people who spoke to the press about their personal experiences.
One of the fundamental aspects in this case, and that clearly failed, was the selection of the jury because if the defense had known those experiences the two jurors would not have been chosen, because both compromised the impartiality required in the people who were selected for the jury.
In the questionnaires filled out by potential jurors, they were asked if they or any member of their families were victims of sexual abuse. Had they answered the question in the affirmative, the two jurors would not have been able to be selected. Juror 50 David told Reuters he "reviewed" the questionnaire and did not remember if he was asked about personal experiences of sexual abuse, but said he would have answered honestly. There have been cases in which jurors could have lied to be part of a jury in a case that has notoriety before public opinion. Likewise, if any of the people have been victims of the same crime and inside they seek revenge. If the defense had known that the two jurors were victims of sexual abuse, they would not have been selected, and it is this point that now allows Maxwell's lawyers to ask for the nullity of the trial and have a high probability of winning a judgment in their favor. One aspect to keep in mind is that the federal prosecutors in the Maxwell case immediately reacted to jurors' comments and requested an investigation because they have an ethical duty to bring to the court concerns of possible bias. In court documents, prosecutors also asked that an attorney be appointed for one of the jurors, David who would have committed the crime of perjury and prejudice. Usually, when a juror says and does all sorts of things that are inappropriate, it is investigated, but prosecutors do not appoint lawyers. One of the examples that can be taken into account in this case are the members of the trial of the notorious former leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán who confessed to the media that they did not comply with the instructions of the court, were reviewing the press during the trial and did not comply with the norm established by the court. None of those jurors were appointed an advocate. The fact that prosecutors think David needs a lawyer suggests they believe he may have acted criminally by committing perjury. "It is not acceptable that the two jurors used their personal experiences to convince the jury to render a guilty verdict," Smith said. That is, if their revelations are taken as truth, then they confessed that they committed a crime of perjury and prejudice for having concealed their condition and also using their experience to directly misrepresent or influence the opinion of the other members of the jury panel when they stated that they had many doubts about the testimonies of the women who accused Maxwell, as their stories were not entirely believable. David revealed to Reuters and The Independent that he spoke about his own experiences to show that memories of sexual abuse can be clear in some respects and confusing in others and after his explanation convinced them to convict the accused. "I know what happened when I was sexually abused. I remember the color of the carpet, the walls. Some of that can be played as a video," David told The Independent. "But I can't remember all the details. There are some things that go together." After sharing that, he added, some jurors "were able to clarify the memory aspect of sexual abuse." If it was not revealed, as Rahmani believes is likely to be the case, and David convinced the other jurors to convict, that would mean that his comments caused real harm to Maxwell, which is necessary to demonstrate bias.
Why this report is important....
The phrase “justice is blind” means that in a court of law, a person is tried on facts and evidence. Judges, juries, and law enforcement professionals have to take an unbiased approach and make an impartial decision with the information available to them. Having a preconceived bias based on past experience is the issue at hand in the Maxwell trial and how that bias was used by two jurors to persuade and prejudice the other jurors for a given outcome. The American Justice System of impartiality has made it the envy of the world.
About the Author
Maibort Petit is a Venezuelan writer, researcher and political scientist specialized in Transnational Organized Crime. Based in New York, she works for various Hispanic media outlets and as a consultant for various firms in New York and Washington DC.
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